Smartphones

10 things Android phones do better than the iPhone

Jack Wallen has jumped on the Android bandwagon in a big way. Find out which features won him over.

Jack Wallen has jumped on the Android bandwagon in a big way. Find out which features won him over.


I recently switched from my AT&T iPhone to Sprint's HTC Hero. Now although the Hero is not a pure Android phone (it's the HTC Sense, which is a modified form of Android), it gives the same experience that Android gives (only with an HTC "bent" to the package). Through this phone, I have come to once again enjoy my mobile experience. There are so many differences between the iPhone and the Hero, so many aspects of the Hero to really help you get your mobile geek on. But for the purposes of this article, I had to pick just 10. So I have narrowed it down to those aspects that really make the experience different from that of the iPhone.

We all know the iPhone, know how it works (or doesn't work, in many instances). We know there is an app for just about every possible task on the planet. But an Android phone? You don't really know an Android phone until you've worked with one. That's when you'll find how far you can push your mobile experience.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Browsing

Let me first say I do like the Safari browser on the iPhone. It's fast, it's reliable, it's stable. But flexible? Flash? Monopolistic? Yes Safari is the only browser for the iPhone, and that browser still does not do Flash. However, the Android browser is one of the best browsers on the mobile market. On my HTC Hero, I have Opera Mini, Dolphin, and the default Browser. I haven't used Opera Mini since I used it a couple of times upon installation. Dolphin is outstanding, with its use of Tabs and Gestures. But the default Android browser just can't be beat. It usually loads pages faster than Safari, has Flash support, and simply does everything a browser should do.

2: Desktop

Instead of just having icons littering your phone's desktop (like the iPhone), the Android phone adds widgets to the desktop. These widgets tend to have an actual purpose. For example:

  • The Twitter Widget allows you to update your Twitter status from your mobile desktop.
  • The People Widget allows you to enable different actions for different contacts right from your desktop (say you want to call your wife with a single click and text your child from a single click).
  • The Messages Widget allows you to instantly see your email from the desktop.

The Android desktop is on a completely different level from the iPhone desktop. To compare them is actually unfair. Apples to Éclairs as it were.

3: Connectivity

On one of the "pages" of my Hero desktop, I have four buttons:

  • Turn on/off bluetooth
  • Turn on/off Wifi
  • Turn on/off Mobile Network
  • Turn on/off GPS

These buttons let you instantly switch on or off the various connectivity options, which will go a long way toward conserving battery life. There is also an app in the Market called Y5, which will turn off Wi-Fi automatically when no known wireless network is available. To do any of this on the iPhone, you have to go into the Settings screen and navigate your way around the various options.

4: PC connection

Unlike the iPhone, you don't need to have iTunes to manage your phone. Now, I say this with a bit of a chewed-up tongue because Android can't sync with the Linux desktop yet. That's okay for now. But Android can mount the SD card so that it is usable (via drag and drop) by any operating system. On this you can add music and files, which will then be usable on the phone. Simple.

5: Multi-notification

One of the issues I've always had with the iPhone is its notification system. Basically, it depends upon a single system that not all applications have access too. For instance, if you are a Twitterer, you can find out if you have updates only by opening the Twitter app on the iPhone. With Android, the apps have access to the notification system and can all report. The notification bar on the Android phone can alert you to new voice messages, email messages, Facebook notifications, new Gmail, new text messages, and much more. If an app has a notification, it can let you know quickly, and in the background.

6: Endless personalization

I hesitate to place this on the list because so many readers seem to think user-configuration is worthless. It's not. The Android phone allows users to configure their mobile to look and behave exactly how they want it. If you're a social network power user, you can have a screen for Facebook, one for Twitter, one for texting, and one for Flickr. Or if you are a business user, you can have a screen for contacts, for your calendar, for gmail, for email, for RSS, and more. Not only can you configure the desktop the way you want, you can configure the behavior of your phone. Set up default actions for different contacts -- even add an entirely different desktop, should you want. The possibilities are endless with the Android phone. With the iPhone, you're pretty much limited to what Apple says.

7: Market

Yes, Apple has an app for that. But so does Android. And chances are, the Android app is free and works as well (or better) than the iPhone app. And, believe it or not, there are thousands of apps in the Android Market. Apple does not (at least yet) have a patent on an application for just about everything. Give it time though. And installing applications on your Android phone is actually easier than it is on the iPhone. For free applications, you don't have to worry about entering a password every time you try to install anything. And you do not have to link to Apple's iTunes store to purchase applications from the Android Market. For those apps that have a price, you enter your information on the Google Market one time and you're done.

8: Google integration

This one is almost not fair, since Android was built with the intention of integrating with Google. But wow does it integrate well. Want to search Google? Simply click the search button, enter your search string, and you're off and running. Did I mention Google Voice? Yes, the Android has an app for that.

9: Open Source

Why does being open make Android better than iPhone? For the same reason that being open helps Linux: a planet full of developers with the ability to aid Android's developers. Anyone can get access to the source of Android to better the system. This is also a double-edged sword, in that it allows those will less-than-ideal intentions to discover any weakness of the phone. But that can be seen as an indirect plus because when weaknesses are found in the open source community, they are quickly fixed. I assume that this tradition will extend to the Android phone. iPhone open? You're kidding right?

10: Open to carriers

This is yet another reason why Android is superior. If you want an iPhone (at least for the time being), you better be open to AT&T. If you don't like AT&T and you still want an iPhone, you better be open to doing a little jail breaking or move to another country. If you want an Android phone, you can join any number of carriers and have your choice of any number of outstanding phones using Android. No lock down.

Your take

What do you think: Are these reasons enough to get you to move from your iPhone to an Android phone? If not, tell us why you prefer the iPhone. And if you aren't sure, just grab an Android phone and play around with it. You might quickly change your mind.


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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

29 comments
CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I posed this question in another discussion, but it's better suited for this one: I find it interesting the one TV ad I've seen for the Droid mentions the open source model; something like referring to the iPhone as "iDon't do open source." Presumably this means open source for app development, although the ad doesn't go into detail. Does the market for this device actually understand what the term 'open source' means and how it affects them, or is the term being used to simply to include another 'benefit' on a list without expecting consumers understand the term?

jkiernan
jkiernan

I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords. For the uninformed, if you jailbreak your iPhone, you can accommodate several of the items on this list. Desktop and Personalization - apps like Categories and Winterboard let you modify the default layout, allow for themes, and group related apps under a common icon. PC Connection - SSH and Mobile Terminal allow for command line processing and SFTP. Multi-Notification - Jailbreak apps can be written to run as a true background process. Those that don't, plus apps from the AppStore, can be run in the background via a jailbreak app called Backgrounder. Market - Jailbreak apps are quite prevalent, and the developer of Cydia now hosts his own storefront. Open to Carriers - as long as your carrier runs on the same frequency band as the iPhone, you can jailbreak to use that carrier.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That is a killer feature. These devices are to the point where the phone network is not the only primary function or network connection. Recently with the iPhone, that feature would have been just the thing I needed to confirm if the phone was using the phone network or wireless signal. At 2$ a meg, it's going to be a big phone bill in absence of a data plan. Now I have to go see if Maemo 5 can specifically disable the phone network (probably still airplane mode).

David G. Hendrickson
David G. Hendrickson

The 3 M's...Marketing, Marketing, Marketing! A buzz word that makes it sound "better" than the rest. Sort of like "New and Improved" and the like.

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

"or is the term being used to simply to include another 'benefit' on a list without expecting consumers understand the term?" ================================ And that would be different from other terms bandied about the airwaves in what way?

slatimer76
slatimer76

I think those words are in the adds for IT hobbyist, and IT professionals. The hobbyist will understand the term "open source" since they most likely know about Linux, AVG, ClamWin, and all the other small free applications people use all the time. This is probably a bigger part of the population then is mentioned, so this term in the add is most likely well placed. How many IT Hobbyist's are on this website??

richardschwarz.oz
richardschwarz.oz

That's just the point, isn't it? If you need to jailbreak an iPhone to get it do what others do from retail, then it's not a feature. Android (and WinMo for those who still use it) allows you to turn just the phone off, differentiate between Data and standard phone and then tell it which one you want. As for the Google overlord thing... It's not Google telling you what you can and can't do with a product that YOU have paid for - no, that's right up in the Apple "My way or no way" alley. This has been my experience with *every* Apple product I've used. Personally - I think that stinks. If you want to be able to make the product your own, mould it and shape it into the useable piece of hardware that you wanted in the first place, don't buy Apple. Having said that - the iPhone looks cool, works well and is usable. Meh.

JimInPA
JimInPA

If you jailbreak your iPhone, you're on yor own if something breaks. My son did that to his and tried to do a software upgrade a few months later. It didn't go so well. Took it to the Apple store for some assistance and was for all intents and purposes told sorry for your luck. An expensive mistake

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I assume one jailbreaks one's phone in order to use a carrier other than the provider the phone was purchased from. Aren't you still paying monthly for the original provider's contract?

Tahkeh
Tahkeh

Rewrite this article when you've jailbroken an iPhone.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

A catch phrase every breakfast cereal should announce.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

This is the first time I've seen the phrase 'open source' mentioned in a TV ad for any product. I'd love for it to have the same consumer comprehension as 'whole grain'. Consumer education has to start somewhere, but I suspect all they'll get from this is the recognition of the phrase as vaguely good without any understanding as to why.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I suspect most people familiar with those apps may not be familiar with the development model, or care about anything except the price.

bfunke
bfunke

chump who works without being paid.

spookyone1
spookyone1

If Android is so free out-of-the-box, why is all this rooting going on? My EVO, OOTB, got 4 hours on the standard battery of standby time. I did plenty of research and d/l'd several apps to better manage battery life. Now, tow batteries last me all day with average use. Lucky I can swap batteries, as that's the ONLY way I could use my EVO without plugging it in all day. Android is really bad at battery management and resource management. iPhone is really good at this. Right now, Android is great for geeks and tinkerers, but for the masses who want a phone to "just work," OOTB, it's iPhone all the way.

spookyone1
spookyone1

As does rooting your Android phone.

jkiernan
jkiernan

What kind of software upgrade are you talking about? Once you jailbreak, you don't want to allow iTunes to update your phone. If necessary, there are ways to reinstall a default firmware, and the Apple Store geniuses would have no way to know it was jailbroken. If your son was savvy enough to jailbreak, he should be able to read the sites and forums that are teeming with helpful instructions to recover from almost all errors.

spookyone1
spookyone1

Only one reason to jailbreak is to change carriers. SInce the only other national GSM carrier in the US is T-Mo, and they have dismal data coverage in most of the US, it isn't even the best reason. Most jailbreakers do so for apps or features Apple hasn't chosen to make available, for whatever reason--usually because, in their opinion, those apps and features harm what they see as optimal user experience. If you do have T-Mo coverage, breaking an AT&T contract isn't that difficult.

jkiernan
jkiernan

A jailbreak can allow an iPhone to use compatible networks, but that's not the only reason to jailbreak. AT&T suits my needs and has been more than adequate. I'm assuming others who don't want to be locked into an AT&T contract buy their phones from 3rd parties or pay-as-you-go. In my case, I wanted video recording, which Apple didn't provide on the 1st gen iPhone. Jailbreaking allowed me to install Cycorder via the Cydia repository, similar to other *nix-based installers. Video is now available directly from Apple for newer models with the 3.x OS, but 1st gen owners are still screwed unless they explore alternate options.

Heycanim
Heycanim

This would require you to sort the data. If that is an option, this might be easier for some. I insert a column to the right of the one with potentially duplicate data. (Say potential duplicates are in column A, I insert a blank column at B.) pepe izle First row is usually headings that will not match the data itself. (I'll change the heading for A if I have to.) Let's assume for this that the data starts in row 2 with headings in row 1.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

And I still take issue with a device that connects to networks while leaving ports wide open and unprotected. It's only a secure device until it's broken and Iphone is showing it's cracks.

alfielee
alfielee

Means I won't have any use for it bcoz it's closed & I don't like Macs. You could of course run Android software on it & I wonder what would happen if you rooted it with Android software rootkit: www.androidoniphone.com Now there's the space & a reasonable idea. You may be right about it being non-attackable, at least for the moment. Leave these phones for the blonde, gorgeous dummies who don't actually have their own mind.

alfielee
alfielee

Recently AVG released an open-source version of its anti-virus which does run on Linux, albeit needing a fairly accomplished open-source hobbyist (who won't get paid for setting up his own box at home) to install this software making it quite probably unused until version 3.15 comes along.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I didn't think AVG was done under an open source license. It doesn't change the point but may clarify for those familiar with that app.

shadfurman
shadfurman

most developers that contribute to open source these days ARE employed developers. Go check out a popular open source project and look up the top contributers.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

you don't actually have to know anything about open source developers to post unsubstantiated opinions about the development model.

ravenmage64
ravenmage64

You killed ur battery just by installing task managers, they kill programs that dont need to be killed and android has its own manager that u cant touch. In the end u do more harm then good, if your battery life sucks turn off wifi when u dont use it

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

As a non-user, I'm not aware of all the reasons one might alter one's phone.

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